Globally, governments make regulatory public policies, some of which are in the form of enactments to ensure that the practice of certain professions are in tune with the country’s laws and regulations at different times. It is in consonance with such laws that the various professional bodies make rules and professional regulations governing the admission of membership and the code of ethics for adherence by their members to keep quack practitioners away.
Over the years, Ghana has had various regulatory bodies in different sectors of the economy and each regulatory body registers or licenses certain professionals and monitors professional practices and ensure that they are in conformity with the approved standards. Every regulatory body is a legal creature with defined objects or legality of purpose. In fact, some of the regulatory bodies are even created by the 1992 Constitution itself. A key example in this regard is the National Media Commission whose functions are clearly or should I say crudely spelt out in article 166 of the Constitution.
Such professional regulatory bodies equally abound in the sub-social services sector of the economy we refer to as the health sector. Until 2013 when the Health Professions Regulatory Bodies Act (Act 857) was passed to put all the professional regulatory bodies in the health sector under one legal umbrella, they operated under fragmented laws. The Medical and Dental Council; Nursing and Midwifery Council; Pharmacy Council; Psychology Council; and the Allied Health Professions Council therefore operate currently under Act 857 of 2013 while the Food and Drugs Authority (FDA) operates under the Public Health Act (Act 851 of 2012). All these regulatory bodies operate in the health sector with divergent responsibilities mandated by the laws that established them.
Apart from the FDA, each of the regulatory bodies enumerated above (those operating under Act 857 of 2013) maintain three membership registers namely:
- Permanent Register: Used to keep record of qualified and practicing professionals resident in Ghana.
- Temporary Register: Used to keep record of qualified professionals visiting Ghana and would like to practice temporarily and not more than 3 months. This applies whether or not the professional is a Ghanaian.
- Provisional Register: Used to keep record of trainee professionals.
Health Service Administrators or Hospital Administrators are one of the key professionals authorized by the Ghana Health Service and Teaching Hospitals Act (Act 525 of 1996) to manage our public hospitals and other public health institutions at the managerial echelons. Health Service Administration is both an academic discipline and a profession because it is studied in universities and there is a career path to it.
Unfortunately, Health Service Administration practice in Ghana is left unregulated hence in many ways Health Service Administrators tend to mimic Victor Amarteifio’s Book entitled the The Forgotten Grandson. This is because in the absence of any law in Ghana regulating this important professional practice, Health Service Administrators self-regulate themselves through the Association of Health Service Administrators, Ghana (AHSAG).
It is not disputable that no matter how effective self-regulation may be, it cannot be as effective as what the legally established regulators do. In the absence of a legal body to regulate Health Service Administration practice in the country, most owners of private hospitals just employ anybody to manage their hospitals. The decisions of Health Service Administrators have direct bearings on patient care so it is rather dangerous for the country not regulate by law, this important professional field in our healthcare delivery in both the public and private sectors. AHSAG is not a regulatory body hence it is not clothed with the authority to check quack professional practices especially in private hospitals. For now, AHSAG can only ensure that its members adhere to the ethical codes of the profession. It is the duty of government to pass a law to regulate this important profession.
The surprising development is the stark reality that government itself through the Ministry of Health has created another grade called Administrative Managers and employ non-professional health administrative officers on that grade, some of whom do not even hold certificates in Administration. How can someone who pursued Sociology, Political Science, Nutrition etc. be appointed as Administrative Manager and posted to a public hospital when the country is already training professional Health Service Administrators in huge numbers and we claim there is no financial clearance to employ them? Where is the Ministry of Finance getting the funds/ financial clearance to employ Administrative Managers but they cannot issue the financial clearance regularly to employ professional Health Service Administrators who are purposely trained to be managers of our health institutions? Even in the case of the Health Service Administrators, a mere completion of the university course does not make them professionals. They mandatorily serve under seasoned and practicing Health Service Administrators to learn the rudiments of the profession before they qualify to practice. It is therefore strange that government is rather employing non-professional administrative staff into our health institutions thereby placing square pegs in round holes. If this unfortunate practice by the Ministry of Health is not stopped, it will weaken the management of our health institutions and it will have dying consequences for our healthcare management. Healthcare management is a sensitive area so we should not leave it in unprofessional hands.
It is because there is a regulation regime for doctors and nurses for example, that is why the same Health Service Administrators who are left to regulate themselves rather verify to ensure that clinical professionals working in our public hospitals have the requisite license to practice.
Methinks it is suicidal for government to leave Health Service Administration practice unregulated. The alarming situation is that few other universities in the country have begun offering Health Service Administration thereby churning out more of such professionals. In the past, only the University of Ghana Business School was offering Health Service Administration in the country. Mindful of the increase in the number of universities offering the course currently, one can say with a significant margin of certainty that Health Service Administrators are not in short supply in Ghana so why government must be employing non-professional administrative officers to manage our healthcare delivery institutions?
In conclusion, government should desist from the practice of employing non-professional Administrative Managers and also pass a new law or amend the Health Professions Regulatory Bodies Act (Act 857 of 2013) to regulate Health Service Administration practice in Ghana. This way, even private hospitals will not have the leeway to employ just anybody as Hospital Administrators. In the interim, the Heath Facilities Regulatory Authority (HeFRA) must also ensure that all health facilities employ only professional Health Service Administrators not just anyone as Hospital Administrator. It is my hope that this article gets the attention of the Health Minister and other authorities that matter.
Asante Sana ~ Author: Philip Afeti Korto. Email: [email protected]
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